Restoring an Amazing City – Antigua Guatemala
My first glance of Antigua in 1968 was that of a remarkable city with cordial people and colonial homes. Most of the 30 colonial churches, hospitals and government palaces were in ruins or a bad state of repair as they had not been used much since 1773 when the capital was moved to Guatemala City.
The Protective Law of Antigua Guatemala was passed by the Guatemalan Congress shortly after I moved there in 1969 and we began to learn about Cultural Heritage. The National Council for the Protection of Antigua (CNPAG) began to clean out the monuments, working on stabilizing and landscaping them for visitors.
Working with the CNPAG after 1978, I was honored to work on the city’s restoration efforts side-by-side with Guatemala’s finest architects, art historians, engineers and archeologists. Rodolfo Asturias is a world-class restoring architect who tackled saving many ruined churches where others had difficulty. One project included the old Jesuit Monastery, Compañía de Jesús, which had been used as a traditional market after 1912 and then abandoned with the ‘76 earthquake. Severely damaged, it had been cleaned of the fallen debris and propped up waiting for work. This was an emergency project which involved constant monitoring while huge bits & pieces of the colonial monument were put back in place after 1992. It was one of the most difficult projects we carried out in Antigua!
Decades of works paid off. Today this is a fascinating place to visit – the Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Espanola: a Cultural Center sponsored by the Spanish government with countless international conferences and free exhibits for everyone. Currently open is an exquisite exhibit of “Maya Deities found in the 16th Century” sponsored by Fundación Ruta Maya. Enjoy Antigua and our efforts to preserve this remarkable city!